Smoke And Mirrors

I have a mystery. An enigma so profound that I’ve puzzled and puzzled ‘till my puzzler was sore, and I still have no idea what’s happening. At the end of November, I went into my bathroom as one does, and I was immediately struck by the sight of a scorch mark in the wooden frame and gold surround of my vanity mirror. The frame itself is over 100 years old, and we had a mirror cut just for it. It’s very nice, and I have one right beside it that matches it, so I was understandably upset when I saw the unexpected damage:

Me: Ken! Come here! What on earth is this?
Ken: It looks like something burned your mirror. How long has it been like that?
Me: Since now. It wasn’t like that last night.
Ken: Weird. Probably the sunlight reflected off that magnifying make-up mirror on the counter, and the concentration of light and heat set it on fire.
Me: This isn’t Gilligan’s Island, KEN!

And while I understand that Ken and I grew up in an era where television shows prepared us for a lot more coconut-powered appliances, quicksand, and campfires created with simple sunlight and a magnifying glass than we actually ever encountered in adulthood, the truth is that there’s no way that the sun, crossing the sky and whatnot, could have possibly been concentrated enough and accurate enough to burn my mirror frame. For a few days, I entered the bathroom with a certain amount of trepidation, glancing at the mirror skeptically (and suspiciously), convinced that there were other forces at work. But after a certain amount of time, I got used to the scorch mark and was actually able to ignore it. Until Tuesday morning. I got out of bed and went into the bathroom to get ready for work and THERE WAS ANOTHER SCORCH MARK. The new mark was about an inch to the left of the first one, and when I saw it, I felt faint. Then I did what any normal person would do—I called for Ken:

Me: There’s another burn mark!
Ken: It’s your make-up mirror.
Me: That’s impossible, PROFESSOR. Go call someone with your coconut.

And I was freaking out just a little, but then I did some research on the internet and discovered to my horror, and disappointment, that my house isn’t haunted by a pyrotechnic ghost but that concave makeup mirrors can actually cause fires when the sun reflects off them, and that I had dodged what could have been a very serious bullet/fire. Apparently, the chances of this occurring are extremely remote but it’s happened in both Leeds, England involving a shaving mirror and in Toronto, where a concave mirror caused a serious blaze. And in 2015, the London Fire Brigade issued a warning to homeowners to keep all glass objects away from windows, including mirrors, crystal, glass paperweights and more, after it responded to 125 fires in the previous five years, all caused by the sun’s rays, and when I read this, I immediately put my make-up mirror inside the vanity cupboard unless I needed it. Mystery solved, right? But then yesterday, I went into the bathroom and instead of a scorch mark, the words REDRUM were written on my mirror in lip gloss….

66 thoughts on “Smoke And Mirrors

  1. I woke up with my house on fire once, and can’t say I recommend the experience. I’m glad your beautiful mirrors didn’t suffer more severe damage and that YOU and your house are safe. There’s probably nothing else haunting it. Probably.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, that would have been so terrifying! I had an incident once where I thought our gas fireplace was about to explode and that’s something I don’t care ever to repeat. Luckily it didn’t–there was something caught in the motor and Ken was able to flip the breaker and fix it–just in time for the firefighters to show up. They were very nice about the whole thing, under the category of better safe than sorry:-)


  2. The minute you mentioned the scorch mark, I knew exactly what it was, Suzanne. When we lived in Vermont a mirror started a small fire on my comforter. I’m glad you figured it out before the house burned down. We keep a small magnifying glass in our “zombie apocalypse escape bag” for starting fires while we’re fleeing through the wilderness. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. SG says:

    Oh, glad you caught it dangly.
    My daughter had a TV mounted on the wall of her bedroom some years ago (before the days of flat screens). One day I found a part of its casing looked melted to me… took me a long while to work out it must have been the make-up mirror on her windowsill doing the old ‘frying ants with a magnifying glass and focused sunlight’ thing.
    Not that I did that of course. I saw some big boys doing it.
    Perhaps it was the inspiration for so many sci-fi writers and their death rays…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Cool. I mean, that’s hot! There’s a youtube vid of a guy molding a lens out of a hunk of very clear ice — and starting a fire with it. And there’s the Mythbusters episode where they vetted the Ancient Roman bronze-mirror-used-as-a-weapon theory. If you fixed it all in place, marking the sunny days as burn marks, you could use it next year as a calendar. Burned Mirror Henge.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gabi Coatsworth says:

    Wow. Thanks for telling me. I seem to have dodge a bullet there. Going to reposition my glass right away. I can’t put it away though – I need it to do my makeup. And I like the way that I look ten years younger when I stop looking at the magnifying side…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There’s a reason bathrooms usually either don’t have windows or have small windows. And that reason is so your neighbors can’t peek in. But it’s entirely possible it also has something to do with protecting mirrors from the damaging effects of sunlight. And I understood that it was entirely possible that sunlight was doing the damage to your mirror frame. I’m not proud of this but I did scorch a lot of ants with a magnifying glass when I was a kid. On the other hand I’m also proud that I once used a magnifying glass to start a fire when I was a Boy Scout. Being a Boy Scout, and earning the rank of Eagle, is also something I’m proud of even if I have mixed feelings about the organization.
    I did wonder about the burned spots appearing in different locations but then I remembered the sun has a tendency to move across the sky. It’s supposed to rise in the East and set in the West but it’s never that specific. Tricky little star.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I had no idea that could happen! I had a similar scorch mark in my bathroom, but that’s because my husband lit a candle and placed it just under a wooden shelf, he was in the bathroom the whole time and claimed he couldn’t smell the burning that I could smell from in the kitchen a floor below!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Ain’t no different than frying ants with a magnifying glass! My mirrors are all safely away from the sun’s rays, but my tinsel rainbow unicorn on top of my desk will sometimes light up my walls with a nice Timothy Leary psychedelic effect. Hopefully tinsel haired unicorns are not fire hazards…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is indeed very possible, they use concave mirrors for telescopes using them in much the same way as a lens. The most spectacular story of this is with the fuck ugly anvil building in London which has a concave glass side and this has melted bits of road, car dashboards…. fun stuff!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. My neighbor from where I lived before had the same thing happen. Her daughter is the one who told her it was her makeup mirror. She had her bathroom windows frosted. But in summer it’s harder to keep any window closed due to heat, so I told her to be careful.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’d have bet money on a ghost! Who knew that it was possible for the sun to do that—scary stuff. Also, if I ever find REDRUM written on my mirror, I will immediately move out. I won’t even pack, I will just buy new things and never look back. 😳

    Liked by 2 people

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